Perhaps the greatest human tragedy today is that people simply give up too easily. Understandably, it is much easier to just quit when we are faced with adversity than to put ourselves through the pain and suffering that are required to overcome it. Our flesh, our human nature, is indeed weak. Left to itself, it leads us into all sorts of temptations, misdeeds, and eventual self-destruction.
Life can be hard, even in here in the USA, where our quality of life expectations have far exceeded the highest hopes and dreams imaginable in almost any other place in the world.
Our personal perception always outweighs reality when it comes to our responses to the difficulties we face daily. Over time, that weight can wear us down beyond our ability to bear it.
Despair is the ultimate destination of our accumulated discouragement … hope runs out when it is most needed. Dying begins to look like a reasonable alternative to our unbearable misery. So, one way or another, death can deceptively seem to be the best solution to all of our many troubles. That is beyond tragic.
At some point in our lives we all must walk through the valley of the shadow of death. That is the bad news. Thank God, there is some much better news. The Lord promises to be with us through it all.
I often wonder why we so easily forget that when we are overwhelmed by our circumstances. The fact is our God is bigger than any problem we will ever have. He loves us more than we love ourselves and is able to deliver us from all evil and restore us to a place of peace and joy in Him, in spite of the troubles we are bound to face in this present world.
Last month I underwent another spinal surgery, my third one since returning from the foreign mission field. While there has been a lot of amazing progress made in the medical practice in the last quarter of a century, there remains a great deal of risk involved when somebody, even the most qualified somebody, starts cutting into your spinal column. That is especially true when you are fast approaching your eightieth birthday and dragging along with you a few other medical conditions. I am almost three weeks into recovery and hopefully through the worst of the pain.
The surgery went well, but the healing has been much more difficult than I had anticipated, one issue being that I cannot tolerate opiate pain medication. After a few days of deep and constant hiccups along with breathing and swallowing issues, I decided to go “cold turkey” and just outlast the pain.
That might have led to the most miserable forty-eight hours of my life. While I never reached the point where I wished I were dead, I did have a better understanding of why there are people who do. Empathy has to be earned. I am grateful for the thousands of prayers directed toward my recovery from all over the world. Prayer really does change things, especially when it comes to matters of faith and trust.
In the midst of pain and suffering, the Holy Spirit directed my mind and heart to some scriptures that I know by heart, but yet am never quite able to fully actualize when it really matters. They all have to do with prayer.
The only one I seem to have mastered is the shortest and most direct one in the New Testament. It was Peter’s desperate cry to the Lord as his faith failed him and he began to drown in his dire circumstances. “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30)
Jesus responded immediately and pulled him up from his certain demise. Perhaps we all have worn out that same prayer, yet it still works if we believe. Desperation is definitely a prayer motivator.
Yet, I want to get past mere desperation and to take hold of the many incredible promises Jesus makes to those who love Him and trust His Word. In all four Gospel accounts Jesus invites us to ask for anything in His name and it will be done.
For instance, ”I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:12-14).
Anything? Really? I keep looking for the loopholes or the fine print, but other than James 4:3, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures,” it seems our lack of faith is the sole obstruction to appropriating this amazing promise.
Are we too sophisticated to believe in miracles anymore? Hopefully, that is a rhetorical question. Perhaps our mistaken certainties about what constitutes “settled science” limits our trust in an extra-rational transcendent reality that supersedes creation.
God’s sovereign will cannot be contradicted by the feeble wisdom of mere men. God does as He pleases. That is pretty much the essence of who He is: the Almighty. If He says He can and will do something, He means it. The question is, can we put our wholehearted faith in that and respond accordingly? As Nike suggests, “Just do it.” Ask!
Another faith-challenging scripture is found in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
The Lord is able to do a whole lot more for us than we have the faith and confidence to ask of Him. In fact, we can’t even imagine what all He can empower us to do. Think about that when you pray. I, for one, want to get past my limited imagination and beyond my hesitancy to approach the throne of God in faith in order to pray with power and authority, for myself and for others.
Almighty God, I pray in faith and confidence that you will manifest your love, your grace, your wisdom, and your power in us, your people whom you have called to be messengers and ministers of reconciliation of all things to you through your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Thank you again for your faithful prayers as I continue to heal and prepare for my next assignment.
[LeRoy Curtis is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Asbury Theological Seminary. He served four years as a U.S. Naval Officer after which he became a pastor, Bible professor, educator, author, and missionary living in E. Africa for eight years where he and his wife developed a curriculum of biblical studies for untrained pastors in rural Kenya. His passion for training young church leaders takes him to various parts of the U.S., Latin America, and Africa. He and Judy are currently residing in Carrollton, Georgia.]